The trails open to mountain bikers have developed over centuries and include old packhorse routes, drovers roads, monastic ways and Roman roads. There is everything from walled lanes with firm stone surfaces to grassy singletrack. You can take on rocky descents and climb high over the moors. Most of the area is on limestone which drains well, but after heavy rain there are areas of peat bog high on the moors which are best avoided.
There is tremendous variety in the technical level of the trails from easy routes on hard stone tracks, through to gnarly single track descents. So that you know what to expect we have used a grading system on the route maps to indicate the level of difficulty.
Routes are graded using a ski run system.
Green: Easy trails including surfaced tracks or tarmac roads. Suitable for novice and young family, although tarmac sections may be steep.
Blue: Moderate trails. Un-surfaced tracks with limited gradients and reasonable surface. Suitable for occasional cyclists and older families.
Red: Difficult. May include long climbs and descents, and being considerable distances from a road. May include technical elements including steep or rocky sections. Suitable for cyclists with off-road experience. Should be competent in navigation, and capable of carrying out basic repairs.
Black: Severe. Technically challenging and/or physically demanding. May involve long and exposed crossings over difficult terrain. Suitable for experienced mountain bikers.
Additionally routes on this site have been given an overall grade which takes into account distance, height gain and remoteness.
Don't worry about your bike, as you'll enjoy riding any regular mountain bike. A suspension bike might make you faster down some bits and a hardtail might make you faster up others, but as usual it's more a question of skill and fitness. The same applies to tyre sizing or any favourite tread patterns you may have, although most local riders run tyres at higher pressures to avoid pinch punctures. Just make sure the gears are working and there's plenty of life left in your brake blocks.
You should definitely carry basic tools and the means to sort out a puncture, as well as spare clothing and food and water. A mobile phone can get you out of trouble, but don’t rely on it as the coverage in the Dales is patchy.
The Yorkshire Dales forms part of the Pennine chain up the spine of England, and the weather is part of its wildness. You can find yourself riding in glorious sunshine and worrying about slapping on the suncream, or putting on those layers to keep hypothermia at bay. Come prepared. Because loads of the trails drain well you can enjoy biking here year round. A cold winter’s day with the tops covered in snow can give an unforgettable experience.
The Dales is not like a forest centre – working out the routes is part of the experience. To make life easier use the selection of routes on this site with their descriptions, but if you are going up high you should still know one end of a map from the other and be able to take a bearing if the cloud comes down.
The only time routes get closed is for major essential maintenance work.
The Pennine Bridleway is a new National Trail in the north of England, being planned and designed specifically for horse riders, off-road cyclists and walkers to enjoy. It will eventually run from the High Peak Trail in Derbyshire to Byrness, Northumberland, a distance of 560km (350 miles). The National Trail enters the Yorkshire Dales National Park at Long Preston and weaves through the Dales via Settle, Malham Moor, Feizor, Austwick, Selside, Newby Head and exits the park at the Cumbria County Boundary above Garsdale, a total length of approximately 52 miles, and is fully open. For further information on the development of the new National Trail visit the Pennine Bridleway website.
When you are out and about you will probably meet walkers and possibly horse riders on the trails. You should slow down and make sure they know you are coming, particularly if you are approaching from behind. A friendly ‘hello’ is all it takes!
Unlike forest centres you have to spend some of your time on tarmac when you ride in the Dales. Most of our roads are pretty quiet, but there are some sections that can be busy, and you so you will always have to keep your wits about you.